English & EAL

After Darkness by Christine Piper

Peggy Deng

March 1, 2018

Want insider tips? Sign up here!


Go ahead and tilt your mobile the right way (portrait). The kool kids don't use landscape...

Updated 19/01/2021

After Darkness is currently studied in VCE English under Area of Study 1 - Text Response. For a detailed guide on Text Response, check out our Ultimate Guide to VCE Text Response.


1. Introduction (Plot Summary)
2. Characters and Development
3. Themes
4. Narrative Conventions/Literary Devices
5. Sample Paragraphs
6. Additional Essay Prompts and Analysis Questions to Consider
7. Tips

1. Introduction (Plot Summary)

Christine Piper’s historical fiction, After Darkness deals with suppressed fragments of the past and silenced memories. The protagonist, Dr Ibaraki, attempts to move forward with life whilst also trying to hide past confrontations as well as any remnants of his past wrongdoings and memories. The text consists of three intertwined narrative strands – Ibaraki’s past in Tokyo in 1934, his arrival in Broome in 1938 to work in a hospital there, and his arrival in a detainment camp in Loveday (South Australia) in 1942 after the outbreak of war.

2. Characters and Development

You can download the PDF for this study guide here.

3. Themes

‍You can download the PDF for this study guide here.

4. Narrative Conventions/Literary Devices


  • ‘a mallee tree’ - Aboriginal word for water which symbolises purity, source of life 'if it’s hit by bushfire it grows back from the root with lots of branches, like all the others here. It’s a tough tree. Drought, bushfire…it’ll survive almost anything…I was struck by the ingenuity of the tree in its ability to generate and create a new shape better suited to the environment.'
  • The tag with 'the character ko…[with] its loop of yellowed string...The knot at the end had left an impression on the page behind it: a small indentation, like a scar.'


  • 'Felt like hell on earth'
  • 'The hollow trunks of dead trees haunted its edges like lost people' - Can also link to the landscape narrative convention
  • 'The scene was like a photograph, preserving the strangeness of the moment.'

Description of the hospital atmosphere where the patient next to Hayashi laid

  • 'Only the windows were missing, leaving dark holes like the eyes of an empty soul'
  • 'The photos reached me first. I leafed through the black and white images: swollen fingers, blistered toes, blackened faces, and grotesque, rotting flesh that shrivelled and puckered to reveal bone. The final photo depicted a child’s chubby hands, the tips of the fingers all black.' - Also foreshadowing death of his and Kayoko’s child

Pathetic Fallacy:

  • 'That afternoon, the sky darkened, and the wind picked up…making the world outside opaque.'


  • Middlemarch (book) which symbolises Ibaraki and Sister Bernice’s friendship as Bernice was left behind
  • Robinson Crusoe


  • 'Being able to conduct research in this way has delivered unparalleled knowledge, which we’ve already passed on to the army to minimise further loss of life.'


  • 'You haafu fools don’t deserve the Japanese blood in you!'
  • 'You bloody racist!'
  • 'You fucking Emperor-worshipping pig...!'
  • 'Haafu' - Derogatory, racism term used to define those who are biracial (half Japanese):

An interpretation of the language use throughout the text could be Piper’s way of humanising the Japanese people to her readers and notifying them that they also have their own culture and form of communication

Another interpretation of the language use is to show that both the Australians and Japanese are just as cruel as each other because they show no respect to one another and use language in such a brutal way

Ibaraki represents that divide where he can speak both languages, yet still, cannot voice his own opinion or stand up for himself (link to theme of silence)


  • 'The void seemed to have a force of its own, drawing the meaning of the words into it.'
  • 'The engine coughed into life.'


  • 'snow was falling as I walked home from the station – the first snow of the season.' - Foreshadowing the storm about to come in his life
  • 'A black silhouette against the fallen snow.' - Foreshadowing Kayoko’s death

5. Sample Paragraphs


'But as soon as you show a part of yourself, almost at once you hide it away.' Ibaraki’s deepest flaw in After Darkness is his failure to reveal himself. Do you agree?


Christine Piper’s historical fiction, After Darkness explores the consequences that an individual will be forced to endure when they choose to conceal the truth from their loved ones. Piper reveals that when a person fails to reveal themselves, it can eventually become a great obstacle which keeps them from creating meaningful and successful relationships. Additionally, Piper asserts that it can be difficult for an individual to confront their past and move completely forward with their present, especially if they believed their actions were morally wrong. Furthermore, Piper highlights the importance of allowing people into one’s life as a means to eliminate the build-up the feelings of shame and guilt.

Body Paragraph

Piper acknowledges that some people will find it difficult to open up to others about their past due to them accumulating a large amount of regret and guilt over time. This is the case for Ibaraki as he was involved with the ‘experiments’ when he was working in the ‘Epidemic Prevention Laboratory', in which Major Kimura sternly told him to practise ‘discretion and not talk ‘about [his] work to anybody'. The inability to confide in his wife or mother after performing illegal and mentally disturbing actions causes him to possess a brusque conduct towards others, afraid that they will discover his truth and ‘not be able to look at [him] at all'. His failure to confess his past wrongdoings shapes the majority of his life, ruining his marriage and making him feel the need ‘to escape’ from his losses and ‘start afresh'. He eventually lies to his mother by making her believe that he ‘had gone to Kayoko’s parents’ house’ for the break, avoiding any questions from being raised about his job. As a consequence, he fails to tell his family about his horrid past suggesting that he has accepted that ‘[his] life had become one that others whispered about'. Juxtaposed to Ibaraki’s stress relieving methods, Kayoko confides in her mother after she receives news of her miscarriage, highlighting that when one willingly shares their pain with loved ones, it can release the burden as well as provide them with some assistance. In contrast to this, Ibaraki’s guilty conscience indicates that he will take ‘the secret to his grave', making it extremely difficult for people he encounters to understand him and form a meaningful connection with him. Nonetheless, Piper does not place blame on Ibaraki as he was ordered to keep the ‘specimen’ business hidden from society, thereby inviting her readers to keep in mind that some individuals are forced by others to not reveal their true colours for fear of ruining a specific reputation.


Throughout the journey in After Darkness, Piper engendered that remaining silent about one’s past events that shapes their future is one of the deepest flaws. She notes that for people to understand and form bonds with one another, it is extremely important to reveal their identity as masking it only arises suspicions. Piper postulates that for some, memories are nostalgic; whereas, for others it carries an unrelenting burden of guilt, forcing them to hide themselves which ultimately becomes the reason as to why they feel alone in their life.

6. Additional Essay Prompts and Analysis Questions to Consider

  • Analyse the role of silence in After Darkness. Compare the ways in which the characters in the text utilise or handle silence. What is Piper suggesting about the notion of silence?
  • Discuss the importance of friendship in the text. What is it about friends that make the characters appear more human? How can friendship bolster development in one’s character?
  • Racism and nationalism are prominent themes in the text. How are the two interlinked? Explore the ways they are shown throughout the text and by different characters. Is Piper indicating that the two always lead to negative consequences?
  • Analyse some of the narrative conventions (imagery, simile, metaphor, symbols, motifs, landscapes, language, etc.) in the novel and what they mean to certain characters and to the readers.
  • Explore the ways in which the text emphasises that personal conscience can oftentimes hold people back from revealing their true thoughts and feelings.
  • Character transformation (bildungsroman) is prevalent throughout the text. What is Piper suggesting through Ibaraki’s character in terms of the friendships and acquaintances he has formed and how have they impacted him? How have these relationships shaped him as a person in the past and present? Were such traits he developed over time beneficial for himself and those around him or have they caused the destruction of once healthy relationships?

If you'd like to see how to break down an essay topic, you might like to check out our After Darkness Essay Topic Breakdown blog post!

7. Tips

  • Be sure to read as many academic articles as you can find in relation to the text in order to assist you with in-depth analysis when writing your essays. This will help you to stand out from the crowd and place you in a higher standing compared to your classmates as your ideas will appear much more sophisticated and thought-out.
  • Being clear and concise with the language choices is such a crucial factor. Don’t over complicate the ideas you are trying to get across to your examiners by incorporating ‘big words’ you believe will make your writing appear of higher quality, because in most cases, it does the exact opposite (see Why Using Big Words in VCE Essays Can Make You Look Dumber). Be careful! If it's a choice between using simpler language that your examiners will understand vs. using more complex vocabulary where it becomes difficult for the examiners to understand what you're trying to say, the first option is best! Ideally though, you want to find a balance between the two - a clearly written, easy to understand essay with more complex vocabulary and language woven into it.
  • If there is a quote in the prompt, be sure to embed the quote into the analysis, rather than making the quote its own sentence. You only need to mention this quote once in the entire essay. How To Embed Quotes in Your Essay Like a Boss has everything you need to know for this!

If you'd like to see sample A+ essays complete with annotations on HOW and WHY the essays achieved A+, then you'll definitely want to check out our After Darkness Study Guide! In it, we also cover advanced discussions on topics like structural features and context, completely broken down into easy-to-understand concepts so you can smash your next SAC or exam! Check it out here.

Download After Darkness Study Guide PDF

Get our FREE VCE English Text Response mini-guide

Now quite sure how to nail your text response essays? Then download our free mini-guide, where we break down the art of writing the perfect text-response essay into three comprehensive steps.

Click below to get your own copy today!

Yes, I'd love a free mini-guide!

Access a FREE sample of our After Darkness study guide

Written by Sarah Carbone (47 study score in English, 40 study score in Literature)

  • Learn how to brainstorm ANY essay topic and plan your essay so you answer the topic accurately
  • Includes 5 fully annotated sample A+ essays
  • Advanced discussions like symbols and literary techniques, historical context and character analysis - all broken down into easy-to-understand concepts that students of any level can replicate
Take me to the free sample!

Get exclusive weekly advice from Lisa, only available via email.

Power-up your learning with free essay topics, downloadable word banks, and updates on the latest VCE strategies.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

latest articles

Check out our latest thought leadership on enterprise innovation.

Keep in touch

Have questions? Get in touch with us here - we usually reply in 24 business hours.

Unfortunately, we won't be able to answer any emails here requesting personal help with your study or homework here!

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Follow Us

Leave your details and we'll be in touch to better understand your needs